I’ve always wondered how much I can take.
I don’t generally think of myself as a particularly stressed person, but it’s perfectly possible my self image is massively out of whack. I mean, does anyone think of themselves as an easily stressed person who finds it difficult to cope?
Hmm, yeah, well I guess they do. I think I know a few people who would happily proclaim that trait as part of their identity.
I find stress a funny thing, I’ve never really noticed I’ve been stressed until whatever’s been bothering me has wandered off, then I suddenly notice the absence of stress. Getting stressed is usually a slow, gradual process. One you don’t notice. The removal of stress tends to be instant and a sudden change. A bit like it slowly getting dark as opposed to switching on the light.
I’m working on five feature scripts at the moment, which is frankly ludicrous. Occasionally a project I thought was dead or finished with rears up and leaps into the mix, just to add a little more pressure. You know, something along the lines of:
‘can we have a character breakdown for …’
‘I need a bio for the press pack.’
‘I’ve had a completely pointless idea which in no way benefits the story. I think it’s a two minute tweak because I’m a director, not a writer; but in reality it necessitates a complete page one re-write for a project I haven’t been able to finance for three years now and have absolutely no hope of getting made yet I keep bothering you assuming someone will magically recognise my genius any day now.’
The last type is always the most fun.
My life right now could be summed up thus:
Imagine you’re standing on a boat in a storm, juggling five randomly shaped objects.
Each object contains an incredibly difficult puzzle.
In order to solve all of the puzzles you need to be (or be able to fake being) an expert in firearms, police procedures, European folklore, mythic animals, chronology of 2007, 2003, 1997, political history, the development of mobile phones, geographical layouts and historical knowledge of Loughton, Argentina, the Arctic, the Antarctic, Leamington Spa, London and somewhere I’ve made up, Egyptology, construction, swordplay in the Dark Ages, clothing from 1000 AD to present day, the music industry, BDSM, pet cremation, diamond formation, fair ground cons and monkeys.
Every time you solve one puzzle, you have to throw it into a hole no bigger than the object itself on one of five boats which are moving around you at different speeds and bouncing up and down in the storm. Assuming you get it into the hole, you have an unspecified period of time to work on the other four puzzles before the solved one gets thrown back with a more complicated puzzle. Sometimes it might be three or four weeks before it comes back, sometimes it might be within the hour.
Occasionally, another boat, one you haven’t seen or heard of for months, passes by and hurls you a smaller, simpler puzzle, expecting it to be solved and thrown back within hours. The number of objects you’re juggling may look like five, but occasionally it can become eight or nine before dropping back to the base level.
Oh yes, and everyone wants their puzzle solved first.
At first, it all seemed like fun. Five projects? Yeah, sure, pile them on. Easy.
I’m beginning to suspect that was a very stupid decision. Since committing myself to the five, I’ve turned down two paying projects (which galls me immensely) and may have to turn down a third (or should that be eighth?) which is staring at me from my desk right now.
For the first time I’m feeling stress while it’s present. I’m not sleeping properly, I’m getting styes, spots, I can’t focus properly, my hands are shaking and I’m beginning to drool. I’m getting the work done, but it’s a painfully slow business and I feel like I’m constantly disappointing people as I continually shuffle deadlines around. I’m beginning to hate my computer. Twice this year I’ve thought of jacking it all in and taking up a less time consuming hobby, like arranging every insect in the world in alphabetical order.
This isn’t fun, this isn’t what I signed up for.
And then this arrives via email:
And suddenly it all seems worth it again.